by Steve Marovich (email@example.com)
Your article about the film Interview with the Vampire struck more than a few chords with me. Not necessarily because I agreed with your entire assessment of what the film represented, but rather because I was intrigued by the responses it generated among "vampyre" devotees.
That oft-resurfacing tale of the frog and the scorpion echoed in my mind as I read those responses. For those who are forgetful or unfamiliar: the scorpion asked the frog to carry him across a body of water. The frog, naturally fearful of the deadly scorpion, declined. So the scorpion tried to reassure him, saying that "it wouldn't be in my interest to harm you while we are crossing the water together, for we will both drown." With that assurance, the frog agreed, only to have the scorpion fatally sting him in the middle of their journey. When asked by the frog why he did that when he knew it would lead to both of them drowning, the scorpion's sorry response was simply "it is my nature."
I actually disagreed rather strongly with your notion that the thrust of the film was a slant against women in particular. In reality, the film, along with the book from which it was derived (and for that matter the entire philosophy underlying the current rage of "gothic" vampire fandom) seemed to me a part of something much bigger: a rationalization of the old "might makes right" code of ethics (or lack thereof), that stratifies society into those with power and those without it, those who have the "right" to take from others by force, deception or "seduction" (because "it is their nature") and those victimized by that predatory paradigm.
Vampires, it is said, are "different" from the Nazis you compared them to in your article. Why? Because vampires "need" to kill to survive, it "is their nature" to do so. And somehow, through the magic of memetic manipulation, some group of people have learned to glorify and valorize the vampire as a "heroic" entity, and thus those who do exploit and coerce (or "seduce," if you insist), in the manner of the vampire, are vindicated and legitimized.
The implications of this philosophy go far beyond the exploitation of women that you alluded to in your article. It reaches into virtually all areas of social stratification in our culture. There is a good deal of cross-fertilization between the gothic "vampyre" fans and those into what they prefer to call "BDSM" (S&M with a euphemized candy-coated moniker). Anne Rice, the original author of the Vampire Chronicle books, has also written a number of books (pseudonymously) with overt S&M themes. People into BDSM, people who enjoy torturing and dominating others, having power over them to make them do their bidding (in a "consensual" way, of course...), say they are not like Nazis, who are cruel and horrible people. No, they are more like... the vampires! Yes, the vampires, who "need" to act this way towards other people!
Thus BDSM does not represent a distasteful desire to victimize others for their own pleasure, one they could choose to overcome (the ways the Nazis could and should have?). No, this is, much like the vampire's thirst for blood, something they "need" to do, something inbred and innate within them. It is "their nature" to be this way. (If only the Nazi propaganda machine had thought of this line!!! All those tried for war crimes could have been acquitted on the grounds that "it's their nature!" Is that ultimately what did the trick for O.J.?)
And thus, we have the seeds of a powerful moral mechanism for rationalizing coercion and victimization, for legitimizing power stratification for its own sake, with the sole goal being the "right" of those with power to do as they please, because (as it is said) it is "their nature."
I see it as being very important to nip in the bud the propagation of this most negative social meme, this throwback to weak pitiful moral philosophers like Nietzsche and Rand and their ilk, who would rationalize "might makes right" in the name of "the natural order of things" (i.e., the things that are in "their nature" to do). By glorifying this homage to a false belief in romantic heroism, legitimizing notions of the "superiority" of the "powerful," we lead ourselves down a path in which our culture reverts to brutal savagery, where "might makes right" is the rule of the day. (Of course, isn't that precisely what some people actually want?)
It is ironic that people who buy into this philosophy often see themselves as the "strong," who are thwarted by the moral dictates of a "weak" society from taking their "rightful" (sic) place in the world, simply because those dictates declare that they can't simply do as they please. In other words, they must refrain from doing the set of things that harm other people (things they lazily declare to be "in their nature"). Solely because there is a demand that they not do so from the awful moral "bullies" of our "weak" society (whom they would otherwise quite likely bully themselves with the coercions, deceitful manipulations, and other victimizations that are "in their nature"). That is "strength?" Sounds like the height of weakness to me, an inability to restrain oneself from simply doing wrong to others, excused (they think) by that same sorry retort.
Unfortunately, if there is an "erosion of our social order," it is most prominent in this area: the ability of "bullies" to rationalize their actions in the name of "nature." Taking advantage of others? Manipulating people through deceitful selective withholding of information? Using the weaknesses of other people to one's advantage, by toying with their desires and fears and "giving them what they want?" Euphemization of terminology to unduly influence people's opinions in an erroneous manner? Why, that's the law of the jungle, the natural order of things, that's... "our nature!" Get used to it!
(The irony here is that these are the people who most often talk about others' "personal responsibilities." Others, they say, should stop whining and take control of their lives rather than expecting respect, fairness, and cooperation from others; but when it comes to their social responsibilities to others, they are released from these obligations by four simple words.)
If there is one thing that scares me about the film "Interview with the Vampire," it is not specifically its attitude towards women. It is its attitude towards human beings in general: the notion that the rules for one person might be different from the rules for another, the notion that some people have the "right" to take advantage of others because (sic) "it is their nature" to do so, the tacit endorsement of social stratification in the name of "nature" that harkens back to "divine right of kings" and other such pompous claptrap.
It should not surprise me that the character of Louis should be thought of in such a negative manner by Vampire Chronicle fans (and [re-]viewers of the film in general). Louis is considered whiny and boring, a pitiful weakling who refuses to accept his "vampire nature." While Lestat revels in his "nature," Louis is disgusted by it, and only reluctantly succumbs to it. It is not by his choice that he came to be what he was, he is victimized by Lestat and turned into a vampire, seemingly with the sole purpose of giving himself (Lestat) a companion. It is as if Lestat needs someone to become as he is, and learn to accept it and revel in it, so that he can legitimize to himself, through his victim's enforced acceptance, what he has become.
Louis impressed me as the one noble character in the entire story. In perhaps one of the most underemphasized moments of the entire film, Louis confronts Armand, who has told him that he can teach him much that he needs to know. Louis' response (paraphrased): "If all you can teach me is to learn to live this way without regret, then you can teach me nothing."
We live in an age where people who do ignoble things have, indeed, learned to live without regret. Do the Jeffrey Dahmers, the Ivan Boeskys, and the Newt Gingriches act as they do because, in their own eyes, it is "their nature?" Sadly, I think the answer is "yes." "It is my (our) nature" is, for them, and for too many others, a sufficient response.
Steve Marovich - firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Marovich maintains the Janus in Furs web-site (http://members.aol.com/estevan206/JIF) which offers alternative perspectives on the nature of BDSM/S&M culture.
I am in agreement with you that this is not cause for restriction, prohibition, or censorship. Freedom of expression means freedom of expression, period. What some of those responding to you (and many of those who have in the past responded to me) fail to realize is that coupled with their freedom to express their points of view is my freedom to express an opposing point of view. This is our ammunition against racists, sexists, bigots, abusers, manipulators, and all those who would invoke their "freedoms" as license to do as they please at the expense of others. You are free to express yourself, but as a consequence you are obliged to accept others' freedom to express them-selves in opposition. And if their opposing opinion decimates the position you espoused, using facts and forthright logic without misrepresentation, so be it. That is what the "free market of ideas" really means. Express yourself, but learn to take your lumps with the rest of us if your ideas are opposed, and especially if that opposition just happens to make mincemeat of a weak position you hadn't thought through carefully enough.